Mark Cuban with, from left, Mella's Daniella Morgan-Pascualvaca, Anya Babbitt...

Mark Cuban with, from left, Mella's Daniella Morgan-Pascualvaca, Anya Babbitt and Ben Seidman. Credit: Disney/Christopher Willard

On March 1, pet health device company Mella Pet Care — headed by Hamptons resident Anya Babbitt — was a little-known startup with Zoom as its “headquarters.” 

That night, millions instantly became aware of the company after it pitched its inventions on ABC-TV’s popular “Shark Tank,” and entrepreneur Mark Cuban took the bait and became a  $250,000  investor.

Mella showcased what it called  the “first ever” non-invasive, accurate digital under-foreleg/hind leg thermometer for dogs and cats, available in home and pro (for veterinarians) versions.

And Cuban offered as part of the deal to expand distribution of the company's existing products and accelerate the development of new ones, such as Mella’s pet body fat analysis scale.

“It’s been non-stop with people calling us” since the show aired, said Mella co-founder and chief operating officer Ben Seidman, 32. “We’re trying to capitalize on this. We are inundated with press, customers and partnership opportunities, including distributors, retailers and more.”

He added, “In a matter of just a couple of hours [after the show] 10,000-plus people visited our website.” 

Mella's officers usually meet via Zoom. Seidman, from Chicago, where Mella  is officially headquartered, declined to provide a figure for how much business the appearance on "Shank Tank" has drawn but said, "We can say that our sales have hit record numbers."

Mella products are available on the company's website, mella.ai, and also online at such sites as Walmart, Amazon and Chewy. The thermometer, introduced in 2022, sells for $59 for the home-use version and $159 for the version for veterinarians.  

Cuban's investment will be used for product research and development, Seidman said.

The company's products are aimed at a booming pet market.  A 2023 Bloomberg Intelligence analysis found that U.S. sales, including food, products and services, will approach $200 billion by the end of the decade, driven by an increase in spending on pet-related health care.

Cuban takes the bait

"Shark Tank” premiered in 2009 and features entrepreneurs pitching to a panel of five venture capitalists called “sharks,” who decide whether to invest in the companies. Cuban was the only shark to offer Mella a deal.

The 42-year-old Babbitt, from the East Hampton hamlet of Northwest Harbor, and Chicagoans Seidman and Mella's chief of staff, former veterinary assistant Daniella Morgan-Pascualvaca, 24, pitched the sharks.

Seidman pointed out that before the Mella invention, thermometers were inserted in dogs’ and cats’ rectums, which was uncomfortable for them.

“This is the first-ever thermometer in the world to take a temperature under the foreleg or hind leg of a pet,” Babbitt told the sharks.

The Mella trio asked for and got their offer for $250,000 for a 2.5% equity share, but Cuban was also given 3.5% in advisory shares.  The deal values the company at $10 million.

When questioned by Cuban and fellow shark Kevin O’Leary about sales, Seidman said more than 2,500 devices had been sold, resulting in about $160,000 in revenue. Cuban and O’Leary called that low and asked why.

Seidman and Babbitt said that was the result of no advertising and concentrating on selling just to the veterinary community first.

After being convinced by the Mella representatives that there were no other products equivalent to theirs, Cuban made the deal.

“We got what we were asking for,” Seidman said in a phone interview last week.  “That doesn’t happen a lot” on the show.

Seidman said the thermometer has been tested on both dogs and cats,  but not on other animals.

Daniella Morgan-Pascualvaca demonstrates Mella products with Daymond John of "Shark...

Daniella Morgan-Pascualvaca demonstrates Mella products with Daymond John of "Shark Tank." Credit: Disney/Christopher Willard

Rescue dog was inspiration

Babbitt’s rescue dog, Mella, inspired her to found the company in 2019 when the puppy nearly died  because of a lack of data to diagnose and prevent her kennel cough. Babbitt said that with the non-invasive axillary thermometer and coming products like a body fat analyzer, chip reader and pulse oximeter, Mella will enable pet parents to monitor their pets’ vitals and record them for veterinary use. 

Seidman said Mella’s goal is to have its pet thermometers for sale anywhere you’d find human thermometers. Morgan-Pascualvaca noted on the show that people have been using human thermometers for pets and that they don’t work because pets have different biological characteristics.

Babbitt said Cuban’s support and involvement will take Mella well beyond next level.

“His expertise, vision, network and passion for pets and innovation will expedite the expansion of Mella’s product offerings,” Babbitt said.  “With Mark’s support, we at Mella are confident in our ability to revolutionize pet care." 

Former Plainview veterinarian Dr. Shadi Ireifej, who runs Las Vegas-based  VetTriage.com,  came in contact with Mella through his website, which offers 24-hour live diagnoses by veterinarians in English and Spanish.

Ireifej said at-home preventive care for pets is a “new frontier” that is sorely needed, largely because it can be difficult to get an appointment with overbooked veterinarians. He said the Mella thermometer enables pet owners to educate themselves about things to look after with their pets. 

This month, Mella's Biggie Body Conditioning Scale will go on sale for $149 for the home model and $349 for the pro version. 

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